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Job Magician Resume:  Make it Visually Appealing  

  • Your resume needs to attract the eye. Most don’t. In fact, most are hard to read.
  • Your resume needs to lead the reader’s eye right to your best selling features.

Your resume needs to provide a summary of your work history and your achievements, and is also an advertisement of you. Good print advertising is designed so that the readers’ eyes go right to what the advertiser wants you to read, and are also put together in a way that the whole advertisement creates a pleasant, vivid and memorable image for the reader.

This may sound contradictory, but while you need to design your resume so it is visually appealing, you need to design it in a way that it doesn’t appear to be an actual advertisement, because deep down, people don’t feel that advertising is believable.

So how do you make a resume be visually appealing?

All of the elements you need are in your word processing software. You need to use bold type, italicized type, different type sizes, indented paragraphs and sentences, occasional bullets and arrows, and lots of white space.

I prefer a resume that has indented paragraphs listed underneath each job that highlight specific skills or achievements, with each led by a bold or italicized caption, such as National Account Development or Acquisition Integration. Skip bland captions such as Leadership or Innovator, which are self-praise words (see Words Not to Use on Your Resume for more about these), and don’t give the reader a reason to want to read the paragraph.

Below is an edited section of the sample resume we provide on this site (see Writing a Resume That Really Shows Who You Are for a complete look at this).  Notice how the indented paragraphs, led by bold, italicized captions, direct your eye to the content:

VICE PRESIDENT/SALES & MARKETING, PorkBarrels, Inc.  Porcupine, Vermont.  Reported to the president of this $77-million, NASDAQ Barrel/Planter/Housewares manufacturer and importer.  1999 to present.

Oversee all sales and marketing functions. Manage a direct staff that included a National Sales Director, Marketing Director, International Sales Director, and Customer Service Manager, plus an indirect staff of 27, comprised of 5 regional sales managers, 2 national account managers, an art director, five product managers, 14 customer service representatives and 175 independent manufacturer’s reps.

EXPORTING:  Identified and retained distributors in Japan, Europe, India and China that gave PorkBarrels their first significant international presence, and recruited and trained an International Sales Manager to service these accounts.  International sales increased from $350,000 to $9.5-million.

TELEVISION HOME SHOPPING:  Set up a series of monthly programs that featured a barrelmaker from our factory on QVC, a national home-shopping network.  Generally, I also appear on these programs, which are now in their third year and generate an average of $900,000 in wholesale sales per one-hour program.

Be Careful with Bullets.  Bullets draw the eye to the bullet.  Used sparingly, they can help. However, they don’t direct the eye to the copy like other symbols will, such as this arrow: >, or better, as bold or italicized copy will (or even copy that is creatively spaced). A resume with a lot of bullets will make the eye connect the dots, leading the eye right to the bottom of the page. Use other visual copy techniques to direct the readers’ eyes in the direction you want them to go.

White Space is also important:. Some resumes look crammed, making them as difficult to read as an unabridged dictionary or the legalese at the bottom of a credit card agreement. This is often because the International Resume Standards Organization has deemed that a resume should be no more than two pages long (you’re right, there is no such organization, but many people believe or have been told that no more than two pages is an ironclad rule; in actuality, a resume for a senior executive that is two pages long is probably too brief, and is only too long if the first page doesn’t get the reader to the second page, and the second page is so boring that it doesn’t make someone want to read the third page).

Avoid the Templates.  There are lots of templates that will allow you to do a quickie resume. They’re also boring, and anyone who has seen more than about ten resumes has seen these same templates repeatedly. Use them only if you need to put a resume together quickly for an interview that is already scheduled.

Use an outside observer. After you’ve spent hours writing your resume, you’ll be too close to it to be able to judge whether it works visually. You’ll need to have someone who has a good eye review it, first giving it a cursory look to observe its visual flow, and then to review its content in depth.




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